Clear Fork River

Clear Fork River Fishing Report:  Water flow is perfect right now.  We’re in a typical winter pattern.  Find fish in medium deep pools and the end of runs.  A slow presentation is most effective, although some larger fish will hit stripped streamers.  Swing a size #12 wooly bugger or sparrow pattern in dark colors and be ready at the end of the swing as the fly slows down.  Recently stocked fish and one year residents make up the vast majority of browns caught. (reported by Dave Radomski 11/27/17).

Update from Dave, 12/6/17.  Fishing has been decent over the past week.  Black stone fly nymphs size 12 and 14 and similar weighted nymphs have been productive swung deep through deep runs.  Dark wooly buggers also catching fish.  Temps and flows are good but a change is coming. 

Clear Fork River Fishery

Each fall since 1992, the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW) has stocked the Clear Fork River with yearling brown trout in the fall of the year. Browns have been stocked in both the lower Clear Fork River below the Pleasant Hill dam in the Mohican State Park and in the upper Clear Fork River above the reservoir in the Butler and Bellville area (see map).

Recent studies by DOW fisheries biologists have shown that survival of brown trout in the section of the stream flowing through the Mohican State Park is very poor, with few fish reaching the legal harvestable size of 12-inches. Poor survival is attributed to the warm water released from the Pleasant Hill dam into the lower river. Starting in 2018, the DOW will alter the stocking program in the Mohican State Park by releasing harvestable-sized rainbow trout in the spring as a “put and take “ program. Yearling browns will no longer be stocked in the Clear Fork River below Pleasant Hill Reservoir.

The DOW will continue to stock yearling brown trout in the upper Clear Fork River with 7,000 to 8,000 trout each fall. There are sufficient numbers of cold-water springs in the watershed to keep river temperatures beneath the lethal water temperature threshold of 75 F. The stream has an abundance of aquatic invertebrates that serve as a food source and holding structure for brown trout to thrive.

The eight-inch long yearling trout are released into the Clear Fork River at access points along bridges in the Butler-Bellville area. After 2.5 years in the river, brown trout grow to an average 12-inches. At this size, state fishing regulations allow anglers to harvest two trout per day. However, most fly fishers practice catch and release to sustain the fishery and allow for much larger browns to be caught in the future. While not common, browns over 20 inches and weighing several pounds are caught (and released) each year from the upper Clear Fork River (see pictures).

Most stretches of the upper Clear Fork River have not been channelized and are bordered by wooded riparian zones. Tree falls, boulders and rocks help create deep pools and runs, excellent habitat for trout and their aquatic insect and minnow prey. Terrestrial insects also provide food in the summer. A hatch chart (provided) gives fly fisherman guidance to what dry flies should be selected as well as nymph and emerger patterns to fish.

Most of the upper Clear Fork River flows through private property, and permission should be obtained before fishing, especially if the land is posted. Land bordering the river by the Wade & Gatton Nursery is open to the public as well as where the river flows through the municipalities of Butler and Bellville. Anglers using common courtesy and not littering will help keep these waters available to the public.

A USGS water level monitoring station recently has been installed (2015) in the Clear Fork River at Bellville (https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?03131982). The river is usually fishable when water flows are less than 50 cubic feet per second (CFS). After heavy rainfalls, it may take the stream several days to clear and drop to a fishable level.

We encourage anglers to report their fishing experience on this site. Not only will this help those planning to visit and fish the stream, but also we will report these results to the Ohio DOW. This will help them manage this excellent brown trout fishery.

Hatch Chart for aquatic insects on the Clear Fork River.

Table shows insect species, hook size range and beginning and end dates of hatch.

 

Insect    Hook Size    Dates for hatch
Blue-winged olive 18-22 March 31-Oct. 30
Black caddis 16-18 March 31- May 31
Tan Caddis 14-18 April 15- Sept. 30
Sulphur 12-14 May 15- June 15
Light Cahill 14-16 June 15-July 15
Midges 20-24 all year
Black stones 12-14 Feb. 20- May 15
Tricos 20-24 June 1- Sept. 30

 

Clear Fork River Fishing Map from Ohio Division of Wildlife.

thumbnail of fly-map

 

View of Clear Fork River near Wade & Gatton nursery.
View of Clear Fork River near Wade & Gatton nursery.
Brown trout can often be found in deep holes under the roots of big shoreline trees.
Brown trout can often be found in deep holes under the roots of big shoreline trees.
A pretty Clear Fork River in the spring of the year.
A pretty Clear Fork River in the spring of the year.
Greg Elefterin with 15-inch, Clear Fork brown.
Greg Elefterin with 15-inch, Clear Fork brown.
Former College of Wooster student, Patrick Brouse, with a big hog brown from the Clear Fork.
Former College of Wooster student, Patrick Brouse, with a big hog brown from the Clear Fork.
A big Clear Fork River brown trout returns to the stream to fight another day.